Paul A. Ibbetson
The Supreme Court: minority activist wanted
By Paul A. Ibbetson
June 4, 2009

President Barack Obama's nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a New York Judge of Hispanic decent, has brought about another unique firestorm that may once again define the characteristic make-up of the new Obama administration. While many people have been concerned over Sotomayor's derogatory statement, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life..." (made on October 26, 2001, at the University of California, Berkeley), others rightfully wonder if her decision to avoid addressing the affirmative action related fireman promotion case in New Haven Connecticut is another example of impaired judgment or, even worse, racial bias. Sotomayor's court decisions on gun control rights, as well as other issues, make her a highly questionable candidate for the life-long position of Supreme Court Justice. If we wish to see the most relevant point of this debate, then we must stop with the banter that is most expected and encouraged at this time, which includes nothing more than a repetition of Sotomayor "this" and Sotomayor "that," and many other versions of the same old "blah, blah, blah."

This cold reality is not a shock to anyone who is thinking. No matter what level of pleasure or pain it brings you, Barack Obama is the President, and he can nominate whomever he wants to the Supreme Court. The fact that a President, who was previously the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, would bring forth a jurist mirroring his own ideals is not a shock, it's simply inevitable. With that said, the Sotomayors of the world are a dime a dozen, and a version of this candidate for Supreme Court Justice would have been plucked from the well by this President at one point or another.

The real issue of concern centers on how we are to evaluate individuals who vie for positions in government that will have great ramifications on our lives in the future. The Sotomayor nomination is currently framed by Democrats forwarding two major points. The first is that, as like Obama, the minority voice of Sotomayor will be a voice of compassion in a place where compassion has been lacking. Similar to the case of Obama, the personal judgments, biases, and work history of Sotomayor, are to be placed far behind the shadow of the historical, ethnic, racial, and gender observances that this promotion can bring.

The second framing point being brought forth by Democrats in the Sotomayor case is even more sinister. It's pretty simple: support our candidate or you're a racist. Democrat muscle, from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman, Nydia Velázquez, to New York Senator, Chuck Schumer, are making Republicans the "offer they can't refuse" (without the severed horse head under the linen), in that failing to endorse Obama's Latina nominee will be the death knell to Republicans when it comes to future Hispanic votes. These are Mafia-style threats that have little substance, and are shameful examples of the warfare being waged by the Obama administration — and its surrogates. Will Republicans simply roll over for this candidate, or will they take advantage of an opportunity to address pertinent issues of relevance? An issue of true relevance, which I sometimes wonder if it is still remembered, is that the ability to fit the job description supersedes the personal characteristics of the individual. The substance of a person's work history will always be a better measurement of evaluation than the "flash" appeal of making history by promoting people based on characteristics they have no control over, which also have no bearing on their ability to be compassionate, intelligent, productive contributors to the tasks and responsibilities they are charged to fulfill. This is the point of relevance that may be lost within the Sotomayor debate. If we the American people allow the current framing of what is important when evaluating our leaders to continue, we most certainly will see more Sotomayors at higher echelons of power and, therefore, we must accept that will we will also see many more Barack Obama's.

© Paul A. Ibbetson


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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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